Adman - A simple formula to deal with mistakes

Aaron Hackett
By Aaron Hackett | 13 July 2020
Aaron Hackett

I’ve found that WFH is a tough gig. There’s no office banter, less gags and fewer less disruptions. The change of scenery is one of the biggest things I miss. I’m noticing that I’m becoming a lot more insular as I adapt to this new normal. I miss my local barista, worrying about what the barista is doing and will they have a job? The world is a depressing place to live right now.

Update: I have landed on a writing group where me and a couple of other writers/editors are workshopping each other's work. There is no pass or fail here, just creative criticism and constructive ideas. Getting feedback, can gnaw at your heart and soul, you can hear the most weird and wonderful things from a reviewer. The worst part is that they highlight your mistakes. In this case, I’m also leaving a lot of red marks and corrections on their pages too. So far, this group has been wonderful, it’s exciting to see what others think of my novel, my baby. No-one else barring me and my wife have read it yet!

Let me back track a second, Adman makes no mitsakes. Why is Adman writing about mistakes? Did Adman mess up? Never! (It’s weird talking about yourself in the third person). I am a big Adman and can handle criticism as long as it’s fair. After feeling the tugging on the old heartstrings, from seeing my mistakes, I took a step back, and reviewed this feeling. I looked at the bigger picture, and my thoughts/ramblings/musings led me to start, way back.

Human beings evolved from a long line of biological mistakes or mutations. Mutations are mistakes in the genetic code (learnt from X-men movies). Sometimes they’re good, sometimes bad. When a tradesman makes a mistake, it can cost a few thousand dollars. When an Adperson does, results may vary. When a scientist makes a mistake, it can lead to something new or a lawsuit. Mistakes are ingrained in us.

I have developed a simple formula, that helps me deal with mistakes. I think it’s prudent timing to think outside of the box, when you are stuck inside one. The formula goes like this; 


Mistake = M (Mistake can be 2, 3 or even 4 to the power of, depending on the severity of the stuff up.) 
Embarrassment = E (This is natural, let it fuel your desire to perform the next steps to overcome it.) 
Research = R, (find out the how and why) 
Culpability = C (own it) 
Inspiration = I (what can be learnt from this or changed?)  

You are at your most vulnerable when you make a mistake. You are at your client/reviewer’s mercy. We’re not focusing on the third party's reaction here, because that is out of your control. When a mistake occurs, try to run this formula. If you perform the above equation, mistakes can turn into gold nuggets, trust can be developed, relationships are strengthened, because not only do they see your human side, but they can see your measure. If you have a good relationship, and have run this formula on the mistake, hopefully the client's email should end in a merci or thank you. (In my case, it is a big thank you!)


The benefits of the above formula lessen guilt and anxiety on my part, it opens my mind and helps me skip the embarrassment part or cut it down. Since I have had anxiety issues in the past, it’s particularly important for me to hold true to this formula to avoid beating myself up about the error and losing sleep over it. It also encourages quick research, fosters creativity and discovery.

Try to find a silver lining and give as much detail as you can. Let them know it won’t happen again, or if it could it’s because of X,Y or Z. 

There is the old cliché, own up to your mistakes. Change the way you think and view a mistake as a growth opportunity. Let everyone know that you made the mistake and more importantly had the experience to not only own up but develop your leadership skills.  

Ask yourself: would this research have been performed, and the inspiration come if the mistake had not occurred? Who knows where this could lead? 
Try running this formula when people have made mistakes against yourself. Try not to be angry, as this fosters extra mistakes and isn’t helping you either. Hopefully, you see this formula or parts of it, from them. If you don’t, use this as a teaching tool, to help you understand and also encourage their growth. Growth is the key here.  

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